From EMMANUEL ADEYEMI, Lokoja
Not many Nigerian politicians can boast of being in the mould of Dino Melaye, Senator representing Kogi West in the National Assembly. Not so much for the many bills he had initiated but for many controversies that have dogged his political personage. But as controversial as he is, Melaye, it seems possesses an uncanny fin to swim out of tempestuous circumstances unscratched.
Indications of his controversial nature began to emerge in the twilight of Nigeria’s first female speaker, Mrs. Patricia Etteh when the Kogi lawmaker rose stridently in defence of the drowning madam speaker. However, it was his infamous role during Dimeji Bankole leadership that revealed his true identity. Despite narrowly escaping the hammer during his days as a member of the Federal House of Representatives, the Kogi lawmaker, just like the leopard, has refused to change his spots. With his current certificate saga having shown that Melaye’s controversial figure dates far back to his days in Ahmadu Bello University, the question on the lips of most Nigerians is who is Dino?
Dino’s childhood and family background
Aiyetoro-Gbede, Senator Dino Melaye’s town was founded in 1927 by Christian missionaries. The people of the town which comprises 10 communities are believed to have migrated from Gbede district. The town is adjudged the largest in Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State with the population of about 30,000.
Unlike many Okun- Yoruba speaking communities, Aiyetoro is one of few communities without identifiable traditional festivities or deities being worshipped by the people. Some of the major communities that make up the town are Agiripon Ilu Aafon, Okoro, Oda, Iyah Ayeh and Aiyegunle.
Melaye hails from Ilu Aafon quarters of the town. Born to the family of Mr. and Mrs. Jonah Melaiye, the lawmaker is the first child of the family of five children. His other siblings are Samuel, Iyin, Moses and the youngest of all, Shade the only female child who got married few months ago.
Melaye’s father is said to be an elder in The Apostolic Church. A deeply religious person, he was said to have advised his son against contesting the 2011 election because, according him, he did not see him emerge victorious at the end of the exercise. But Dino, who people believe has so much love for his father and respects him more than any mortal, however, defied his advice.
In his home town, where he has a palatial mansion, Dino is believed to have built a house for his father just as he did for his siblings while a good number of his aides are said to be his blood relations.
Dino’s foray into politics dates back to his days in the university where he played active role in students’ unionism. His interest in partisan politics was, however, kindled while following the then Military Administrator of Lagos, Brig Gen Mohammed Buba Marwa in the late 90s.
At the commencement of the new democratic dispensation in 1999, Melaye was relatively unknown to his people until 2007 when the House of Representatives’ slot was zoned to Gbede district of Ijumu Local Government Area of Kogi State.
In the Okun political circle especially in the Peoples Democratic Party, political positions are zoned and rotated among various districts. Thus between 1999 and 2003, the Ijumu district in Kabba-Bunu/ Ijumu Federal constituency had the first shot, which threw Chief Abiodun Ojo up.
Between 2003 and 2007, it was the turn of Bunu district and Duro Meseko emerged the preferred choice. Dino succeeded him as the choice of Gbede district in Ijumu after a lot of politicking between 2007 and 2011.
But when Dino in 2011 kicked against the zoning system that brought him to power, the Kabba district, whose turn it was to produce the next candidate rose against him, hence he lost to Tajudeen Yusuf, a former students’ union leader at the University of Jos.
In 2008 during the rerun of the governorship election, Dino pitched camp with the then governor Ibrahim Idris against Prince Abubakar Audu now late. He was alleged to have gone to the INEC office to get the photocopies of credentials submitted by Audu, the then ANPP governorship aspirant and accused him of not having secondary school certificate.
He, however, apologised to the late Audu and promised to work with him. Audu was said to have forgiven Dino, made him the ANPP candidate and funded his campaigns for House of Representatives election, which he lost to Tajudeen Yusuf of the PDP.
Dino alleged that the election was rigged in favour of the PDP candidate and for several days he led some youths to INEC office in Lokoja protesting and calling for the cancelation of the election.
Between then and the 2015 election groped in political obscurity in the state and veered into anti-corruption campaign during which he led crusade of probe against a former governor in the state, Ibrahim Idris who had just left office then.
His Journey to the Senate
Dino remained in ANPP despite failing to realize his re-election bid on the platform until the party merged with other political parties to form the All Progressives Congress. His reconciliation with the late Audu again who was one of the arrowheads of the party in the state paid off in the long run.
He contested the Kogi West Senatorial seat and defeated Smart Adeyemi of PDP after controversially emerging as APC candidate.
Before the election political watchers had written Dino off as the PDP was believed to have a formidable candidate in Smart Adeyemi, who was seeking a third term but the Buhari Tsunami gave Dino, who had already lost the five local government areas in his native Okun land and was in the distant third position an edge over the PDP candidate as votes from Lokoja/Kogi handed him a surprise victory.
Dino, who had resigned to fate after series of unfavourable results trickled in, was said to have jumped out of his car when the he heard the news of his victory and prostrated on the highway, glorifying God.